Tattletale

Tattling is a very common problem among children, especially when you put thirty children together all day.  They start annoying one another and next thing you know they’re in a fight, dragging their caretakers into the middle of it.  Generally tattling goes something like this, “So-and-so said such-and-such to me” or “So-and-so won’t stop such-and-such!”  Tattling isn’t even limited to the “naughty” children.  Nearly every child tries to tattle, even the ones who normally don’t give anyone any hassle.

Working in a daycare adds another layer to the problem.  Since many of these children spend more waking hours with their daycare classmates than their actual siblings, they have a tendency to start acting like brothers and sisters.  This leads to even more tattling.  Unfortunately, parents don’t always understand this relationship.  They see their children coming to the teacher with a serious complaint and having that complaint ignored.  Therefore, daycare providers have to at least listen to what the child is saying even though most of the time the child has not tried to solve the problem without adult intervention.  Therefore, the conversation after hearing the tattler’s tale is, “Did you ask them to stop?”  “Um, no.”  “Why don’t you go do that?”  “Okay. . .”  It gets rather exhausting after saying that twenty times every hour.

One example of tattling happened the other day when a boy came up to me at lunch.  I could tell by his walk that he was coming to tattle:  the glances back to another boy, the sullen look, the pointing finger.  Taking a deep breath, I prepared to hear the latest bout of tattling.  The boy stops in front of me and states, “That boy is looking at my apple while I eat it!”  I began to think about my usual speech for tattlers about asking the person to stop and seeing if anyone is really being hurt, but stop.

I stared at the boy and asked, “Did you just say he was looking at your apple?”

“YES!  He’s looking at it and won’t stop!”  A giggle bubbled up in my throat.  Don’t laugh, don’t laugh, he’ll be offended, I thought to myself.  But it’s too late; the giggle burst out and I started to laugh out loud.  The boy just stared at me.

“So he’s only looking at your apple, not actually touching it?” I asked through the laughter.  He nodded and I told him, “He’s not hurting your apple.  Go sit down.”  I was still laughing as he walked away.

In hindsight, I guess I ignored this child’s “serious complaint.”  My bad.

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